AUSTIN — The legal battle over transgender bathroom rights continues in Texas, with Attorney General Ken Paxton joining two colleagues in asking the Obama administration for clarification on its recent letter to schools regarding the issue.
On Tuesday, the attorney general’s website had a letter to the U.S. Department of Education and Department of Justice concerning new questions that have arisen since those federal entities sent a letter dated May 13 to school districts nationwide. The letter, which outlined school districts’ responsibilities toward non-discrimination to be in compliance with Title IX, was written to be “significant guidance.”
In a statement on his website, Paxton disagreed.
“The so-called ‘significant guidance’ issued by the Obama administration raises more questions than it answers, just as it creates concerns among anyone who believes sex is a biological fact and not a personal preference,” he said. “As billions of dollars appear to be at stake based upon schools’ compliance with this guidance, the Obama administration must be extremely clear about what is and isn’t allowed, and explain how their actions do not add requirements to the law, as their letter claims.”
Paxton — along with West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey and Oklahoma Attorney General E. Scott Pruitt — sent their letter asking several questions, most of them focusing on whether certain situations would be compatible with Title IX, which bans sexual discrimination in schools that receive federal funding. The letter also asks if schools are required to “administer their programs according to each student’s subjective ‘internal sense of gender,’” and if students are required to use only the bathroom or locker room of the gender in which they identify.
The letter from the attorneys general requested a response by May 24.
The Obama administration letter directed schools to “treat students consistent with their gender identity even if their education records or identification documents indicate a different sex” under Title IX. This applies if a parent or guardian notifies the school district their child will identify with a gender other than what was previously recorded.
Joy Baskin, director of legal services at the Texas Association of School Boards, told the SE Texas Record on Thursday that schools around Texas at different points have dealt with this issue locally on a case-by-case basis.
That is in line with the letter from the Obama administration, she said.
“It sets up some guidelines from Department of Education, and the guidelines it sets out are not different from what we’ve already heard from Department of Education," she said. "What we’ve heard in the past is on case-by-case basis."
As for athletics, Baskin said Texas school sports are governed by the rules of the University Interscholastic League, which currently state that a school athlete must play in the sport that categorized for his or her biological gender.
Paxton also has his name on another recent legal filing on this issue. Texas is one of eight states that had a high-ranking official sign a brief supporting a rehearing of G.G. vs. the Gloucester County School Board, which allows the DOE to include gender identity in the term “sex,” according to the brief.
Baskin said the DOE has a “great deal of authority to interpret the law in this area.”
The brief was filed May 10.